Gardens Illustrated
Villa Pisani Scalabrin - Tulips
© Jason Ingram

When to plant bulbs

Published: August 24, 2020 at 12:35 pm

There are several answers to the question 'When should I plant bulbs?' and here we break down the basics

Spring bulb planting

Spring bulbs are the bulbs that probably have the biggest reputation. These flower are some of the first signs that we are getting through winter, and spring is approaching. Think daffodils, tulips, but don't forget crocus, iris, camassia and the lovely tiny narcissi.

Tulipa 'Black Hero'
© Jason Ingram

When to plant spring bulbs

End of September

Autumn is the best time to plant spring bulbs, because the soil is still warm. The early, more delicate bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and hyacinths need to be in by the end of September if you want them to flower in March. Snowdrops should not be planted later than early October. Smaller, early flowering bulbs, such as scilla and crocus, should be planted in the first half of October. Ideally tulips should be planted a little later in autumn, so in November to avoid any potential viruses.

Crocus Thirkeanus
Crocus Thirkeanus © Jason Ingram

Plan ahead to make sure you have the bulbs you want, in time for planting. Head to our piece on bulb suppliers for where to buy your bulbs, and don't miss our feature on designers picking their favourite spring bulbs to plant in autumn too. 

Here's more information on how to plant spring borders alongside perennials. 

A selection of spring bulbs

Summer flowering bulb planting

When to plant summer flowering bulbs

September and October

Hardy summer flowering bulbs can be planted in September and October. These bulbs include lilies and crocosmia.

Crocosmia 'Hellfire'
Crocosmia 'Hellfire' © Jason Ingram

When to plant allium bulbs

November and December

Plant alliums in early December to make sure they are out over summer. Tulips can also be left to be planted, until November when the soil is cold.

Allium atropurpureum
Allium atropurpureum © Jason Ingram

Autumn flowering bulb planting

When to plant autumn flowering bulbs

Late summer

Plant autumn-flowering bulbs, such as nerines, by late summer. To flower well nerine bulbs need to be baked during the summer, so avoid planting them where they will be overshadowed by other plants. Plant the bulbs just below the surface of the soil in large clumps. In cold areas mulch them after they have finished flowering to give extra protection during wet and cold winters.

Amarine tubergenii Belladiva Series
Amarine tubergenii Belladiva Series © Jason Ingram

Forgotten to plant your bulbs? Don't worry. Get them in the ground as soon as you can, discarding any that are soft or rotten, and you may be surprised at how they thrive nonetheless. It will depend on the severity of your winter but you might find that your late-planted bulbs are quite happy.

Planting bulbs in pots

In autumn, gardeners should be thinking about planting spring bulbs, and planting them in pots is a great option that offers the potential for a stupendous display. it’s worth taking the time to consider planting combinations, where you want the display to sit, plus the size and style of your pot. Here's more on the dos and don'ts of planting bulbs in containers. 

Forcing bulbs

This is a way of growing your bulbs in whatever season, by tricking them to thinking that they have been through the season cycle. It's a great way of adding colour to a house during winter. Here's our guide on forcing bulbs. 

Winter flowering bulbs


There are a series of bulbs that will happily grow over winter in pots, including Hippeastrum ‘Grand Diva’ which will flower six to eight weeks after planting. That's the same with certain types of hellbores too. For more information, head to our piece from Matthew Reese on the best winter flowering bulbs. 


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